The Thunder Diaries, Part 3

(Read Part 2 here)

INTRO – Editor ‘arris

Dino ponders the magnitude of the CMG curse.

Well two races down and four more to go. I’ll let Costa and JP fill you in with all the details on how Team CMG performed, but overall this is proving to be quite the series. CMG escapades aside, race two saw the much anticipated arrival of Team Toronto Ducati (AKA Brampton Cycle) and their pro-rider Derek Vammus on a 900SS.

Although one or two riders from the first race failed to return for race two, we did see some new faces, including the infamous Dino (re: Emailbag) on his tuned up R1150GS. Although forbidden in the Canadian Thunder class, Dino entered the GS in the Twins class. Not to imply that anyone who dare anger the gods of CMG will have their bike cursed, but Dino took up the new art of puddle surfing in the practice sessions. Thankfully, rider was unscathed although machine was a bit worse for wear.

But without further ado … Team CMGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGG!

Are you a business owner interested in sponsoring Team CMG? The season is young, we still have some space for stickers on the bikes as well as logos in the updates. For more info contact Richard Seck at


Although it might appear to be a walk in the park, it isn’t!

I knew before getting involved in the Canadian Thunder series that it wouldn’t be a walk in the park. The first race was completed with the Firebolt pretty well straight out of the crate, and although the bike’s handling and braking blew me away, I needed more power and a track-suited gearing. In short, I had to get my Firebolt’s motor to breathe and convert the belt to chain drive, thereby allowing me to test out different final drive gear ratios.


With only two weeks before race #2 this would not be an easy task, especially when you have a full time job and the bike is so new the aftermarket manufacturers have no go-fast goodies available yet.

Not having any luck looking for existing performance parts, I decided to take things into my own hands; I’d make an exhaust system myself and then see what could be done to get more mixture into the ‘bolt.

Costa’s home-made header.

The Firebolt’s pipe is quite narrow (inside diameter of 1 1/2″), which helps lower rpm power, but restricts higher up. In order to give me those extra higher horses I needed to increase the diameter of the stock header pipe. After getting hold of a couple of Buell headers from other models (with a more suitable 1 7/8″ ID) I proceeded to cut, fit and weld them together.

In all it took three pipes to make one and although the finished product isn’t pretty, it should do the trick. A big thank you to Denis Lavoie of Cosden Specialities (450-670-3727) for the use of his shop and welding gear.

I could have easily modified an existing high flow canister to replace the stock muffler, but instead elected to use the stock body because of the way it attaches to the bike. Earlier Buells are notorious for breaking muffler brackets, but this pipe is strapped in by stainless clamps, supported under aluminum extrusions that spread the load across the width of the muffler body at the front and rear. It’s so solid you could probably hang the bike upside down from its muffler!

Cut, gutted and rewelded original muffler.

My advice to anyone thinking of making a pipe for this motorcycle is not to get rid of the stock mounting hardware. Work with it, as to do otherwise is to flirt with disaster!

Next was the airbox. The design of the intake system on this bike is very well done. It’s a high-volume dome-shaped affair, with a rubber intake snorkel on the left side, going down a passage through the frame. The air filter is large enough to feed a V-8 and has a rubber velocity stack sitting inside. All I had to do to increase airflow, was remove the snorkel and seal the gap between the airbox base and the frame.

Now that I was getting more air through to the engine, I also needed to increase the amount of fuel. Team CMG’s Richard Seck contacted Jeff Bloor of Cycle Max for fuel injection modification ideas, to which Bloor suggested Techlusion ( – a company in Nevada that makes an injection system control box. The unit splices into almost any motorcycle fuel injection system and allows for a range of fuel flow adjustments. Within a couple of days, I had spliced the new box into the ‘bolt’s harness.

Standard belt idler can be adapted for chain drive.

Gearing was also a concern and a chain and sprockets conversion was in order. Due to the belt design, the Firebolt’s swingarm doesn’t provide for rear wheel adjustment, any slack being taken care of with a separate belt idler. The easiest thing for me to do would be to just modify the stock belt idler so it could swing upward and take up any slack as the chain stretches. A chain roller from a BMW F650 GS could replace the stock belt piece and a slot in the mounts would allow for any adjustment. It’s a simple but effective solution.

With design problems overcome, phone calls went out for chain and sprockets. The front sprocket wasn’t hard to track down; it’s a Sportster item, but the rear sprocket was to prove more elusive. Although the six-hole bolt pattern looked like it could be from other models, one look at the earlier wheels proved I had to look further for rear sprockets.

Unfortunately, copious phone calls between Mr. Seck, the sprocket people and myself failed to produce the elusive rear sprocket in time, so the belt would have to endure another weekend.

Note – Complete details of what was done to the Firebolt will be divulged in a future segment of this ‘CMG Goes Racing’ series.


Techlusion pod has four adjustments.

The test of my modifications came with Friday practice, which was run in lowly twelve-degree temperatures. The good news is that the modifications on the engine worked; air was getting into the cylinders in abundance. The bad news is that the fuel didn’t follow the air’s lead. I was running lean, too lean and the forecast called for even more cooling off throughout the weekend, which would only make the situation worse.

If it wasn’t for the Techlusion control box, I wouldn’t have been able to run the bike at all. I made full use of the trackside dyno to dial in the control box best I could. With all the adjustments set on their minimum settings, the bike was getting the same amount of fuel it would have been getting in its stock form, but with the subsequent mods it would now barely run – coughing, spitting and backfiring, and not revving past four thousand rpm.

As I turned the Techlusion adjustment pots, the engine cleared and the horsepower climbed. Unfortunately, it stopped this upward trend the moment I hit the end of the adjustment of the pot, resulting in a max power output of 74.3 hp (although I believe this may actually be lower than the stock output).

Philippe Durrand (110) and Bob Close (493) battle it out for third and fourth – although Frenchy’s grounding out his pipes before his knee! (photo: Flair Photography).

I simply didn’t have the range in the control box to feed enough fuel to my thirsty engine. Fortunately, the Techlusion folks have a different EPROM chip available that can double the adjustment range, although I’ll have to wait until the next race to see how it works. In the meantime, I still had to deal with a dangerously lean engine.

Since the dyno was there, it seemed like a good time to get the other CT competitors a visit with the dynocologist. Frenchy’s (Durrand) Monster put out 76 hp, the Vammus-piloted Brampton Cycle 900SS showed 79.4 hp and James’ X1 put out a restricted 90.2 hp, (his bike makes more power for the Heavyweight Twins class but he uses a restrictive air filter to limit the power for Canadian Thunder). The all out horsepower king??? My team-mate JP, with an almost illegal – ‘that’s cutting it pretty close, JP’ – 94.6 hp. (Hmmhh, that would be very CMGesque to be caught cheating in our own race series – ‘arris)

Although my 74.3 hp doesn’t seem too far off Frenchy’s or even Vammus’ Ducatis, my modifications put a hole in the midrange that you could slip the Yukon into. That, in combination with stock gearing (I can only use four out of five gears), what racers know as ‘drive’, was all but non-existent.

Costa has no problem in the corners (photo: Flair Photography).

On Saturday the temperature dropped further, hitting a maximum of about ten degrees. My bike didn’t like this weather trend and during qualifier stumbled and surged its way to a seventh place finish.

I was really ticked off, not because of my finish, but because of the peril I was putting my bike through. Racing is not necessarily abusive to a bike; it’s just hard use. However, what I was doing was pure torture for the poor Firebolt. Running flat out in cold weather with an overly lean condition is not what is recommended in the owner’s manual.

Nonetheless, the engine didn’t use a drop of oil or puff a single trace of blue smoke throughout the weekend. I’ve seen four stroke engines seize under less strenuous conditions – I’ll just consider myself lucky this time.

At the end of it all, Derek Vammus won the qualifier, followed by James, Close, Durand and then JP.


Restrictive snorkel is easily removed … or replaced … or stolen.

Sunday was colder still, not getting above eight degrees; I had to do something about the lean mix. Having no other options, I decided to reinstall the restrictive intake snorkel I had previously removed. The problem was it was sitting back home.

As luck would have it, Jamie Fitzgerald, a technician at Motosport Plus in Kingston and fellow Thunder racer, brought along his brand new Firebolt so he could put some break-in miles on it. I quickly befriended Fitz and then had someone distract him while I pulled the necessary parts from his bike. He never quite understood why I kept thanking him.

The installation of the snorkel helped put the fuel mixture back into the ‘safe to ride’ range, but sadly it still remained far from the ‘power to win’ range.

As much as I’m having difficulty getting racing sized power out of the Firebolt, fortunately the chassis needs absolutely nothing. Half a turn on any of the damping adjusters, and you can feel the difference on the track. The bike tracks smoothly, goes exactly where it is pointed, doesn’t squirm over bumps and brakes like nothing I’ve ever ridden before.

Vammus takes the race but James set a new CT Shannonville lap record in hot pursuit (photo: Flair Photography).

With this in mind, I decided to use the final to really push the limits of the bike’s handling. I actually had fun following an SV Cup rider for most of the race, almost running into him like a charging rhino going into turns just to have him escape my grasp on the exit.

Vammus and James pulled away from the rest of the pack early on, with Vammus maintaining his lead and going on to win the race, albeit with James just a bike length behind (and gaining fast). Bob Close finished third, Frenchy fourth and JP fifth. I settled for sixth, improving on my qualifying position by one place.

Although a sixth place finish is nothing to write home about, I’m quite pleased with my results considering the events that took place in the two weeks leading up to the second round. I felt the potential of the XB9R and realized that with the right hardware, it could be a class leader. It soon will be – besides, I still have three weeks before round three back at Shannonville.

Costa Mouzouris.

JP Getting the heads down (photo: Flair Photography)
Bob Close pulls the corner on Philippe “Frenchy” Durrand
Darren James keeps up the pace on his X1
Derek Vammus takes race 2 on a 900SS (photo: Flair Photography)

THE JP FILES – Shannonville Canadian Thunder Round 2

The highlights:

  • The BMW’s tranny now works
  • The Pirellis work where the Michelins didn’t
  • The BMW R1100S is the undisputed Horsepower King
  • Testing the Buell
  • Derek Vammus is in a class of his own
  • Switched grids with the SVs
  • I seem to be finishing fifth, no matter what
  • I need more cornering clearance!



Looking big in corners helps fend off the challengers (photo: Flair Photography).

The anxiety is high and the temperature is low, bloody low. After a few tentative laps, it becomes clear that the Pirelli Dragon Super Corsa tires are working in these cold conditions and working well. The other guys on the Michelin’s and the Dunlop’s, (tire warmers or not), are not having fun.

The Beemer is no lightweight and has a front weight bias (52/48 split), so I run 31/29 psi front/rear. This works, even if the sceptics would argue that I’m just not going fast enough to see a difference. Perhaps, but apart from the occasional front tire push, all is well with my set-up. The repaired transmission is working and the bike screams on the back straight, eating SVs and mildly tuned Buells for breakfast.

On Saturday, the official dyno reveals the truth. Where all the other competitors stay well within the class hp limit, I frankly can’t get any closer, with a recorded 94.6 hp. “BMW Power” says it all on my S’s bellypan.


Carbon-fibre head covers bear testament to lack of clearance.

The heat race proves frustrating: as the slower SVs are once again gridded in front of us. As a result, I am haplessly relegated to dead last in corner one. Damn, better use those ponies to catch up. I eventually manage to finish fifth, and so losing my front row position of the previous round.

Race day! Despite the morning’s ground frost, the first practice session is a smooth one. I manage to pry Costa’s beloved Firebolt away from him for the next session, just to see what all the fuss is about. Good thing he doesn’t have any midrange because his bike is the fastest cornering bike I’ve ever experienced, short of a 125. Once he sorts that engine, he will be running with the fast boys.

Team CMG’s valuables ready to go.

After a bit of negotiation with the race sanctioners, we managed to get the Canadian Thunder gridded in front of the SVs. Even so, I still fail to put in a good start (it’s getting to be a habit) and settle into fifth once again. Although I’m keeping Bob Close and Philippe Durand in sight, I can never threaten them. Horsepower king or not, even though I am now riding the beemer faster than I ever have, it’s now touching cylinder heads in most corners and limiting my cornering speeds. The Pirelli’s help, but the head clearance is definitely a limiting factor.

The series is now getting into a rhythm – Darren is fighting with pro’s like Derek and there is a battle lining up for third with Bob, Philippe and myself relatively close. I need more cornering clearance and I need it soon. I have a plan – a secret weapon for the next race… (Costa, can I run nitrous? Shouldn’t a 500 lb bike get a handicap?)

JP Schroeder


Let’s not forget the results! Below are pics of the Race Two top five from left to right (right being the winnerest type winner of the winning win). Cheques are handed out by some inanely grinning dude, formerly known as Editor ‘arris (although I have to do something about my bulbous looking attire … me thinks it’s time to dust off the CMG leotard).

You may have noticed that Costa is .. err, absent from the top five. Graciously coming in sixth, thereby allowing other people to take the prize money. Well done Costa. Don’t let it happen again.

JP gets to touch his cheque before a shrinking ‘arris reclaims it for charity.
Philippe “Frenchy” Durrand seems happy enough.
Bob “make it banjo music” Close also has a big grin.
Darren James missed first by a whisker, but still gets $400.
Derek Vammus swoops into the series and takes first .. and $800.
All the winners with their new disco medallions (hairy chests to follow).


Many thanks to Jeff Bloor at Cycle Max for allowing us to to pick his well-tuned brain. He was the person who suggested we get in touch with the Techlusion people. In case you missed his phone number on the van, it’s: (905) 791-9677

A big thank you to the good folks at Flair Photography who allowed us to use some of their photos in this article. If you were riding at the track last weekend, you’ve probably been expertly photographed with top-shelf digital equipment. To find out more about Flair’s services e-mail Jack at: . As per usual, all other photography is by the superlative Mr. Seck.

(Read Part 4 here)

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